After reading the assigned Northouse text and lesson commentary on the path-goal theory, I was able to think of ways of how it applied to situations that I have experienced. The path-goal theory relates to how leaders motivate their subordinates to accomplish their goals (Northouse 2013). In short, followers are on a path toward reaching their goals. That being said, many obstacles may lay in their way. It is the leader’s responsibility to help remove these obstacles to help his or her subordinates accomplish the designated goals (Pennsylvania State University World Campus 2013).
The path-goal theory consists of three different characteristics: leader behaviors, subordinate characteristics, and task characteristics (Northouse 2013). For the purpose of this blog entry, I wanted to focus primarily on the leader behaviors, which consists of four different types. The first is directive leadership. This style is structured so that the leader clearly states what is expected of his or her subordinates, how it should be done, and when it should be done by. Supportive leadership is the second type. The main concern of these leaders is to ensure that their subordinates are happy and satisfied with the work place. In addition, they treat their followers as their equals. The next leader behavior is participative leadership. These leaders involve their subordinates in the decision-making process by reaching out to them to get their opinions. Achievement-oriented leadership is the final type. This is when leaders challenge their followers to perform work at the highest level possible by setting high standards. It is important to note that, similar to the situational approach, leaders may display any of these behavior types at any time (Pennsylvania State University World Campus 2013).
Looking back to my internship working for a general contractor this past summer in downtown Washington, D.C., I believe that the path-goal theory can be applied to my project manager. Breaking down all of the different types of leader behaviors, I can see that my project manager used all of them at some point of the summer when assigning me a task or goal. A couple of the tasks assigned to me were to create and periodically update schedules and to complete change orders. These tasks may be viewed as ambiguous and somewhat complex; however, my project manager was able to provide me with guidance while challenging me at the same time. Therefore, both the directive leadership and achievement-oriented leadership were used. Other tasks assigned to me were to post requests for information and perform takeoffs. These assignments were repetitive, unchallenging, and often assigned in large amounts. Knowing this, my project manager would encourage me this finish this work as fast and efficiently as possible, which showed supportive leadership. In addition to the aforementioned tasks, I also had to take field photos. My project manager would tell me what construction procedure or problem needed documentation and I would go out and take photos as necessary. While not a difficult task, my project manager provided me freedom by allowing me to determine what photos needed to be taken. In other words, he set a goal for me and involved me in the decision-making process. This displays the participative leadership.
In conclusion, my project manager during my previous internship was able to show all four types of leader behavior. However, I believe that my example exposed one the weaknesses of the path-goal theory, which is that it is very complex and confusing (Northouse 2013). Several tasks could have fallen under more than one leader behavior, such as when I was assigned to complete change orders. I believe keeping this weakness in mind will allow people to better understand and utilize the path-goal theory.
Northouse, P. G. (2013). Leadership: Theory and Practice (6th edition). Thousand Oaks, California: Sage Publications.
Pennsylvania State University World Campus (2013). PSYCH 485: Leadership in Work Settings. Lesson 6: Contingency and Path Theories. Retrieved from: https://courses.worldcampus.psu.edu/sp13/psych485/003/content/06_lesson/01_page.html